Reaching out to Minnesota's military kids
Tanya Pederson welcomes her father, First Sergeant Greg Pederson of the Minnesota National Guard, home from Iraq. Tanya wrote an award-winning essay, "Welcome Home," that explains what it felt like to miss her father and the moments leading up to his long-awaited, joyful return. Minnesota 4-H has incorporated audio of Tanya reading her powerful essay into its "Speak Out for Military Kids" curriculum.
When they leave Iraq to return home in July, 2,600 Minnesota men and women will have taken part in the longest brigade-level deployment in the history of the National Guard.
Their prolonged absence has already taken a toll on their families.
During this 22-month deployment and beyond, Minnesota 4-H, through its partnership with Operation Military Kids, is helping to deliver recreation and social and educational programming to the children of military personnel across the state.
One of 4-H's most popular offerings, Speak Out for Military Kids, provides kids ages 12–17 with an opportunity to create and present skits, lectures or videos about what it's like to have a parent or other family member deployed overseas. Events have taken place in Duluth, Mankato and Minneapolis. The two-day retreat also gives kids a chance to ask questions of a panel of military personnel who have been deployed in the past.
"Our intent is to help build awareness in the community about what these kids are experiencing," said Amber Runke, Extension Operation Military Kids program specialist. "There's a huge need right now to show support for our families here in Minnesota."